Kirkus Star


How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream
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Mettler (Government/Cornell Univ.; The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy, 2011, etc.) delivers a broadside to for-profit universities and the politics that enrich them.

The author spent eight years researching and writing her withering attack, and her data is devastating. The for-profits have poor graduation rates, poor records of employment for those who do graduate, and vast numbers of people who find themselves greatly in debt (student loans) and, due to their inadequate education and training, unable to find jobs that will enable them to repay their loans. “The reality of these schools,” she writes, “has not matched the rhetoric.” Mettler’s text is also a social and political history of American higher education, and she notes that despite the pervasiveness of anti-elitist rhetoric, polls show that Americans still believe in the importance of higher education. There is a vast difference between the lifetime incomes of those who did and those who did not graduate from college. The author also traces the history of public funding for higher education—all the way back to pre-colonial America—with special emphasis on major projects like the GI Bill and Pell Grants. She notes that increasing tuition is linked closely to the recent cutbacks in state and federal taxes that support higher education, and she uses Colorado as an example. Among her most damning discoveries: The majority of the for-profits receive more than 80 percent of their revenue from the federal government, and their administrators earn far more than their counterparts in brick-and-mortar universities. She notes that for-profits focus on recruitment, not on education. The GOP receives most of her fire, but the Democrats do not escape unscathed. Basically, she writes, the rich go to “real” schools, the poor to the for-profits, exacerbating inequality.

A thorough and deeply troubling analysis of a quiet but ominous threat to democracy.

Pub Date: March 11th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-465-04496-2
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2014


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